Friday, November 30, 2018


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Hotel Berg en Bos, Apeldoorn, November 29, 2018—

ANOTHER DUTCH DELIGHT, or, one cannot live only on uitsmijters en biefstuk. The pannekoek, also spelt pannenkoek, is a thin pancake the size of a dinner plate, into which can be cooked a variety of things. The batter is somewhat like that of a crêpe, thin and soft: correctly cooked, as here, it remains a little soft, more like a Yorkshire pudding (though utterly innocent of meat) than an American baking-powder-hard-wheat-flour pancake.

I have two standbys: spek-gember of appel-rozijnen; bacon with ginger or apple and raisins, depending on my mood. For this first pannekoek in some time I had trouble deciding, so went with spek-gember-appel, and did not regret the decision.

The apples are sliced thin; the ginger is candied; the bacon is meaty and very lightly smoked. Over the pannekoek one drizzles stroop, very thick molasses-like syrup, and the trick is to get the right amount, so no trace is left on the plate when you've finally finished this feast.

     🍷beer: Veluwse Schavuyt (local)

•Pannekoekenrestaurant Berg en Dal, Hoog Soeren 30, Hoog Soeren, Netherlands; 📞+31 55 519 12 19

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Another biefstuk

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Gorssel, Netherlands, November 28, 2018—

WE BEGIN THE WEEK'S exploration of Gelderland with an outing to this small town south of Deventer and east of Apeldoorn, just within the provincial boundary. (A look at the map of Gelderland reveals the stupidity of political boundaries, but that's not a subject for this blog.)

There are only 4,000 or so inhabitants of Gorssel, which lies on a flat area of field and forest drained by the river IJssel; but the town supports a fine museum of 20th-century art, whose permanent collection reflected one man's taste, and a notable restaurant, where Hans proposed we have the day's principal meal at midday.

Loetje is in fact a chain of restaurants: half a dozen of them in Amsterdam; another nine or so beyond. It is known, Hans told us, for its steak, and so of course that is what I ordered. It looks like a hollandse biefstuk, all brown and brown; and in fact my first taste suggested it had been pan-fried and was even a bit burnt. Later bits disproved the burning: this steak was cooked to a perfect rare degree. I wish I'd though to photograph a slice.

It's a softball-steak, and the Countess — who ordered soup and capucijners, those delicious field peas — glanced at it when it arrived and recalled a similar steak we'd had decades ago in Oklahoma City.

Like that one, this was extraordinarily tender, with a delicate flavor perhaps overwhelmed by the rich gravy. It came with a bushel of french fries, very nice ones, and I ordered a serving of fried onions as well. Delicious.

Dessert: half the Countess's Dame Blanche: a fine soft milky vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and, of course, chocolate sauce.

     🍷Garnacha, Spain

•Loetje Gorssel, Hoofdstraat 26, Gorssel; 📞0575 -760 199

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Good and Dutch

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Apeldoorn, November 28, 2018—

LUNCH YESTERDAY back at Worst, where I had a nice vitello tonnato with a glass of simple white Burgundy; then the drive halfway across country, east, to Apeldoorn, our center for the next week.

We were all in the mood for something homey, and Hans suggested this herberg I'd often seen and wondered about but never, for some reason, in all the times we've visited here, tried out. It has the feel of an old way-station, with a small pub-like bar — almost a traditional Dutch bruinbar — complete with billiards parlor off to one side.

I had this excellent tomato soup, proudly listed as house-made on the menu: thick, nicely textured with chopped tomato, scallions, and capers, and flavored with (as I believe) fennel and cumin. With it, bread and a mild aiöli.

I went on to a gehaktbal Oude Loo, a softball-sized sphere of ground meat, broiled no doubt, and served with pickle, mustard, and gravy, with french-fries and mixed vegetables on the side.

Dessert: the countess can never resist the offer of a Dame Blanche, so we shared it. A curious, milky vanilla ice cream, quite good, and the obligatory whipped cream (a combination I very much like), and of course chocolate sauce. Nice.


•Herberg Het Oude Loo, Piet Joubertstraat 14, Apeldoorn, Netherlands; 📞+31 555 769876

Monday, November 26, 2018


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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 26, 2018—
ONE OF MY FAVORITE dishes here in Netherlands: the uitsmijter, an open-faced sandwich involving cheese (omitted today), ham, and three eggs sunny side up.

The name is the Dutch word for "bouncer," in the sense of the guy whose job it is to maintain order at the doorway of the bar — I suppose this was his usual meal, or more likely between-meal pick-me-up.

I don't usually omit the cheese, and I'm not sure why I did this time. It is generally Gouda, the semi-hard cow's-milk cheese about which a book could be written (and probably has), and at best it's a slightly aged one — but not a hard dry aged one; no need to bury an expensive cheese full of character under ham and eggs.

We had this one (for the Contessa ordered the same, but with bacon, oddly, in place of the ham) at a place new to us, comfortable, rather ordinary, a big room with a good-sized bar and, I noted, an even larger dining room adjacent, with big windows, good light, a very pleasant ambiance.

This was in an old building, formerly a traveler's pension, now a hotel with its own brewery, bar, and restaurant. I liked my uitsmijter just fine — I've eaten dozens, and this was like many another. With it I had a couple of Berenburgs made, as I understand it, on the spot. Berenburgs vary widely, though they all involve infusions of herbs (and maybe other things) in Dutch gin (jenever ) and syrup. I preferred one, gingery and lemony; the other seemed over-sweet and unresolved, and went into the cup of tea I had for dessert.

Pension Homeland, Kattenburgerstraat 7, Amsterdam, Netherlands; 📞+31(0)20 723 2550

Saturday, November 24, 2018


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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 24, 2018—

HERE YOU SEE one of the things that calls us back to Netherlands: verse haring, fresh herring, also called nieuwe ("new") or even groene ("green," so called when eaten on board ship, just after the catch).

In any case they are eaten raw, split, and boned. It used to be there was a season for this, but the advent of freezing has changed that; now you can get "fresh" herring just about anytime. (Freezing has also taken care of a problem that arose, I think, in the 1970s: the occasional presence of a parasite. I think freezing changes taste and texture, but it's a minimal change.)

The fish is sweet and sea-flavored, its texture pleasant. Dutch sushi, perhaps. Traditionally you bought one at a herring stand, held it by the tail, flipped one side than the other in chopped onion, and tipped your head back to take it in.

Or, as here, you get a haringbroodje, the split herring on a bun, with scattered chopped onion and sour pickle slices.

We bought these at Haringhandel A. van Dok, Haarlemmerplein, a twelve-minute stroll from our apartment. I like a small glass of jenever (gin) with my haring as a prelude to dinner, but this was lunchtime, and our refrigerator divulged a can of Heineken, not a bad chaser.

•Haringhandel A. van Dok, Haarlemmerplein 1a, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 620 94 94

Friday, November 23, 2018

Back to Marius

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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 23, 2018—

A WEEK OR TWO ago I dreamed I was eating dinner alone in a restaurant — really alone, sitting at a long refectory table in an otherwise empty restaurant. The waiter brought a delicious grilled quail. When I'd finished it, a pigeon. Then a poussin; then fried chicken; then roast capon.

Then pheasant. Then Guinea hen. And finally, roast goose. Oddly, there was no duck; thankfully, no ostrich. Each plate was perfect. I ate in complete silence. It was like a religious service.

Last night, our first in Amsterdam in a couple of years I think, we were at our favorite table, next to the kitchen door where we could engage with the cooks — except that we didn't: they were very busy indeed: Marius was full.

We began with baked pike — baked or poached, I'm not sure which, and the skin crisped — served with spinach, borlotti beans, and tomato. The contessa's dish had a langoustine-inflected sauce; I had to do with a simpler but very satisfying one.

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Then pheasant! Sixty years ago and more this was not an unusual dish; the fields around us were loaded with pheasant. Since grapevines replaced cow-pastures, pheasant have been absent. It was the least familiar bird in that litany of poultry I had dreamed. But it's not unusual here in Netherlands.

This was roasted and served sliced, with sauerkraut, potato-and-apple puree, and chanterelles, with a fine reduction. Very dutch; very satisfying.

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Dessert: Semolina pudding with poached pears in a light syrup, very simple, very refined.

Friendly, attentive, polished service. Clean, bright, snug dining room, filled with happy, enthusiastic diners. This is one of our very favorite places.

     🍷Mondeuse, Château Mérande, Le Comte Rouge (Savoie), 2015: deep but fruity, tobacco, delicious
•Marius, Barentszstraat 173, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 422 78 80

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Two restaurants

Eastside Road, November 17, 2018—
NO PHOTO TODAY: sorry. I didn't think I'd be writing this — not because I don't think the restaurants are worth writing about, not at all: because I thought I had definitively stopped writing about eating every day at all.

But habits die hard, so here I am again — to tell you that we really like this place in Santa Rosa: nothing special, a quiet, comfortable Italian restaurant, mostly veering toward the North Italian cuisine — the family owning it was, I think, from the Lago Maggiore area.

They bought a Victorian house in a residential neighborhood on the edge of downtown years ago, installed the restaurant downstairs, and lived upstairs. Over the years they've done well: they no longer live on the premises; the upstairs is now I've heard a private dining room.

There's a snug little bar to one side of the dining room, whose tables are set wide apart. The ceilings are high and there are pleasant landcapes painted on the walls. White tablecloths, of course.

Wednesday we dined with an old friend, beginning with cocktails — a Fernet Negroni for me — continuing with salad, then sole piccata, very nicely cooked in butter and flavored with white vinegar and capers. I had a decent zabaglione for dessert.

Ca' Bianca Ristorante Italiano, 835 2nd Street, Santa Rosa, California; 📞 707.542.5800

THE NEXT NIGHT we were in Oakland, dining with a couple of friends in a favorite restaurant we've neglected too often — there are so many favorites to juggle!

And this one is closing soon, after ten quite successful years — the frequent combination in this area: fatigue on the part of the principals; great difficulty finding and retaining good staffers in an area where housing is expensive and in short supply.

So this was our final dinner. We opened with cocktails — a "Gin Drink" for me, involving lime, genepi, and something else. Then a salad and then grilled duck leg and breast. We've known the principals for years; both Russ and Alison used to be significant members of the team at Chez Panisse. Russ cooks everything in a huge fireplace, and the duck was about as good as it can be — superb.

     🍷Mondeuse, Domaine Dupasquier, 2014: also superb

•Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, California; 📞(510) 547-5035

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, November 16, 2018

Poor man's cassoulet

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Eastside Road, November 16, 2018—
COOK'S BEEN INVESTIGATING the freezer again, and turned up two containers of stock: pigeon stock from 2015, if you can believe it, and goose stock from last year.

She asked me to smell it after it had thawed, but I wasn't sure about it. I suggested she heat it, and when it was at a simmer I tried it: delicious — not at all rancid, which would be the only problem after all that time.

She'd already soaked white beans overnight, so it wasn't a long stretch of imagination to cook them in the stock, then add a couple of Franco's sausages — these his French Country and Provençal sausages. It's lovely to mash those beans down into the rich stock with the tines of your fork…

Afterward, nice bitter broccolini, sautéed with olive oil and garlic; and after that, strawberry shortcake. Viva la cuisinière!

     🍷Nero d'Avola, Regaleale, 2014: deep, round, nice.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017     will I get around to 2018?